|From:||Jim Grossmann <jimg@...>|
|Date:||Monday, March 22, 1999, 5:21|
JimG -- Your points about relative gender are well-taken. As for "alien"
languages, don't a lot of human natlangs have shape etc. classifiers?
>At 05:42 PM 3/19/99 -0800, you wrote: "As far as relative genders go, I
>think there'd be some contexts in which the gender would have to be
>'absolute.' Relative gender would introduce extremely impractical ambiguity
>into sentences like these:"
>Why? You are specifying the gender in English by a word that means "female"
>or "male." A language with a relative gender system would no doubt have a
>word which refers to "female" or "male."
>Examples: "People trust female babysitters more than male babysitters."
>If you were writing in Old Babylonian, the female babysitter would end in
>"-[a]tum" and the male would end in "um."
>If you were writing in Oogaboo, which indicates relative genders, and its
>gendersystem assumes masc-fem genders, and -UM was for same-gender and -AT
>for opposite-gender, you would say (same /um/plural /u:/; opp. /at/ plural
>"I hired a babysitter-AT because I trust female-A:T babysitter-A:T over
>In this case, the PRONOUN is either gender-unmarked (unlikely!) or has
>different forms for male and female speakers (I for men, ME for women), and
>there are separate words - as in English - to denote gender. A woman would
>"Me hired a babysitter-UM because Me also trust female-U: babysitter-U:
>over male-A:T babysitter A:T."
>"Only the female of the species has poison."
>(male) Only the female-AT of the species-? has poison.
>You can see how this would be awkward, though. I would prefer to use gender
>only with animate, human-class creatures - humans, pets, intelligent
>aliens, whatever - as opposed to slugs, houses, etc. I would make a third,
>neuter gender which does not have a marker - ie. intelligent creatures are
>marked for gender, otherwise the word is unmarked. Otherwise it would make
>these monster-long sentences!
>And what about a truly alien language, one that humans could only figure
>out on paper like a math problem ... with multiple genders relating to
>time, shape, or place-referents? I-now speak of him-then and the like. What
>a nightmare - and would make for some fun, fun work. An alien language
>worthy of Cherryhian work would be fun to build - I especially like the
>shape-referents. Tall gender, round gender, distance factors ... you'd have
>way fun explaining why a species would want to indicate relative distance
>so much it's built into their brains!
>You can see how this can be done, but it would be delicate work.
>"You know what I blame this on the breakdown of? Society!!"
> - Moe, "The Simpsons"
>Everyone thinks I'm psychotic, except for my friends deep inside the earth.
>Only 287 shopping days left before the end of the world.